Source: Institute for Energy Economics and Financial Analysis
Europe’s long solar winter has come to an end. After a multi-year period of depressed installations, Europe’s annual solar market is set to double over the next few years, and do so in a sustained manner, according to new research from Wood Mackenzie Power & Renewables
Solar projects now regularly beat onshore wind in competitive auctions in Germany, one of the world’s most mature wind markets. France has rebounded and is now seen as the most attractive place to build solar in Europe. Meanwhile, long-dormant Spain has rapidly transformed into a globally significant solar market, as well as a new hotspot for corporate renewables deals.
Since the rise of modern wind and solar technologies, few markets have seen as dramatic and sustained a downturn as European solar. The sudden elimination of feed-in tariff programs for big projects nearly a decade ago in Germany and Italy precipitated a collapse in installations. In the peak boom year of 2011, Europe installed 22.7 gigawatts of new solar capacity — with Italy alone putting up a remarkable 9 gigawatts. That same year the U.S. installed 1.8 gigawatts. But the European market then crashed hard, slumping to a low of 7 gigawatts in 2016, WoodMac figures show.
Today, however, Europe stands on the cusp of a gravity-defying rebound. WoodMac forecasts 18.8 gigawatts of installations in 2019, up from 10.7 gigawatts last year. By 2022 the market is expected to hit nearly 25 gigawatts, and remain above 20 gigawatts for the foreseeable future.
And unlike the days when installations were driven by politically vulnerable subsidies, the European market is increasingly centered around competitive auctions and subsidy-free projects.
“Europe has gone through the boom, been through the bust, and is now entering a third phase — which seems to be much more sustainable in terms of growth,” said Tom Heggarty, senior WoodMac analyst and author of the new Europe Solar PV Outlook 2019 report, in an interview.